Manuel Mendive is one of the leading Afro-Cuban artists to emerge from the revolutionary period, and is considered by many to be the most important Cuban artist living today. Mendive was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1944 and graduated from the San Alejandro Academy of Plastic Arts, Havana. His work consists of drawing, painting, wood carving, sculpture, and performance. At times, due to the lack of availability of art materials, he relied on his creativity and resourcefulness to obtain various mediums commonly found in nature. Much of his work consists of paint and wood, which he combines with other elements, such as human hair, sand, feathers, and glass. The primary theme in his art is his recognition that African religion and African culture have shaped Cuban national identity and culture.
He has received numerous awards for his art within exhibitions in Cuba and in Europe. Since the beginning of his artistic career, he has participated in many group and solo art exhibits. His first one man show was held at the Center of Art in Havana, in 1964. In 1968, he was awarded with the Adam Montparnasse prize for his painting exhibit at the Salon de Mai, in Paris, and third prize at the Salón Nacional de Artes Plásticas, in Havana. Additional noteworthy awards Mendive has received include the Alejo Carpentier Medal from the Consejo de Estado of the Republic of Cuba, in 1988, and the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the Minister of Culture and Francophony of the French Republic, in 1994. Today, his art resides in museums and galleries all over the world which include Cuba, Russia, Somalia, Benin, Congo, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Jamaica, and the United States.